Crunch Time: 5 of the Most Memorable World Cup Playoffs as the 2017 Clashes Get Underway

Last month, the draw was made that pitted the remaining teams still in with a chance of qualifying for next summer's World Cup in Russia against one another. This is the last roll of the dice for the likes of Italy, Sweden and the two Irelands from the European campaign, while the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Peru also still have everything to play for as they seek a spot in Russia next summer. In the past, the nerve-shredding tension of the playoffs have thrown up some pretty memorable...

France 2-1 Republic of Ireland (|Playoff for 2010 World Cup)

France claimed victory over the Republic of Ireland by a narrow 1-0 margin at Croke Park in the first leg between the two sides, setting up a tense return fixture at the Stade de France days later.


Ireland went ahead in the game through Robbie Keane and Giovanni Trapattoni's men held on to force extra time.


It was then that one of the most controversial moments in football history occurred, as Thierry Henry appeared to magically control the ball from going out of play to square to William Gallas of all people to tap home.


Replays confirmed that a sheepish looking Henry had deceived the referee with the most blatant of handballs, as France went through to the finals.


The Irish FA later requested both a replay of the fixture and an unprecedented grant to play at the finals in South Africa as a 33rd team, but it fell on deaf ears. Henry later apologised. Which also fell on deaf ears.

Portugal 4-2 Sweden (Playoff for 2014 World Cup)

It was billed as the 'CR7 vs Zlatan' show as Portugal and Sweden were drawn together in a playoff for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.


The two talismanic figures went to head-to-head in the pulsating match at the Friends Arena in Solna - each scoring a second half brace.

 

With the aggregate score at 3-2 to Portugal, it really needed to be Ibrahimovic for Sweden to force extra time, but it was serial big game player Cristiano Ronaldo who got the last laugh - his strike on 79 minutes ensured Portugal's ticket to Rio, and Zlatan famously declared that the tournament wouldn't be the same without him. 

Ghana 7-3 Egypt (Playoff for 2014 World Cup)

The Black Stars were everybody's favourite team at the 2010 tournament in South Africa, and endeared themselves to the hearts of football fans globally when they were sent crashing out in the semi-finals against Uruguay courtesy of a Luis Suarez handball.


They found themselves with work to do to reach the 2014 finals, with a game against Egypt standing in their way of a return to the grand stage.


They absolutely came up trumps though in the first leg, crushing Egypt 6-1 thanks to goals from Abdul Majeed Waris, Sully Muntari, Christian Atsu, a brace from Asamoah Gyan and an own goal from Wael Gomaa.


Egypt did actually win the second leg, but the margin was far too big to overcome, and Ghana made their third successive World Cup finals.

Argentina 2-1 Australia (Playoff for 1994 World Cup)

Argentina scraped through to the finals in Russia 2018 with a 3-1 win over Ecuador to rescue a really poor qualification campaign, but for the 1994 finals to be held in the US, they had to do it the hard way.


England fans in particular were watching the game with close intent as arch enemy Diego Maradona returned from a 15 month-long ban for drug use, in the hope that their Australian cousins could avenge them for the pain of 1986.


It wasn't to be though - Argentina won the second leg 1-0 after a 1-1 draw in Sydney thanks to Gabriel Batistuta's cross deflecting in cruelly off Alex Tobin.

Australia 1-1 Uruguay (Playoff for 2006 World Cup)

Australia experienced redemption for their cruel loss at the hands of Argentina 12 years prior by reaching the finals of the 2006 World Cup with a triumph against Uruguay.


The Socceroos also succeeded in banishing bad memories of their game against the same opponents four years before, and their triumph meant qualification for a finals for the first time in three decades.


It came about after a pair of 1-0 wins for either side forced extra time and then penalties in the second leg.


Luckily, Australia were sharper from the spot and John Aloisi fired the decisive penalty home to the ecstasy of 82,000 Aussie fans.

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